Some predictions for next year….

One of the questions I’ve been asked frequently the past few weeks is whether or not the airlines will have double elite qualifying miles promotions next years. It’s something I hadn’t thought about a whole lot, since I like to take it one mile year at a time. That being said, I’ll go out on a limb and say the answer is obvious, at least for American and United — of course they will! I’ve been a 1K with United for about five years now, and all but one year they had a double elite qualifying miles promotion, although in fairness it cost money to register in years past. Given that the economy (and more specifically business travel) hasn’t recovered yet, I think it goes without saying we’ll see a round of double elite qualifying miles around March or so.

Now the more interesting question in my book is whether they’ll have another “round” towards the end of next year. While it’s largely dependent upon what the economy looks like then, I think there’s more to it, which involves my other prediction — we’ll see more elites next year than in years past.

You heard me right. No, the sky isn’t quite falling, although this is the first time I’m making this prediction. In the past I couldn’t help but laugh when people predicted three months of double elite qualifying miles promotions meant massively devalued frequent flyer status, because it really didn’t. And so far I’d say I’ve been right, because over the past three or four years I’ve consistently had my upgrades clear and haven’t noticed too many additional 1K’s.

That being said there’s another factor this year — shrinking fleet sizes AND six months of double elite qualifying miles, at least at United. United has retired around 100 airplanes in the past year, and as an elite that translates to about 800 fewer first class seats. These capacity cuts alone make upgrades tougher, since you have more elites per flight. And I can’t help but assume that in addition to that, the number of elites this year is actually increasing. While business travel is down considerably, American, Continental and United have offered six months of double elite qualifying miles. That’s a lot, and as a percentage is substantially greater than the decrease in business travel.

So simply put I think we’ll see double elite qualifying miles at the beginning of the year. I doubt we’ll see it towards the end of the year, not just because the economy will hopefully be recovering, but because the airlines will realize they’ve inflated the elite pools a bit too much.

And trust me, I’d love to be proven wrong as far as the inflation of elite ranks goes.

Filed Under: Advice
  1. “I think it goes without saying we’ll see a round of double elite qualifying miles around March or so.”

    +1. Though I wonder if the promotion will apply to flights booked before registering. I’ll cry if they won’t!

  2. +1 for the elite ranks swelling. My household has gone from just ME (as a DL Plat) to myself (DL Diamond), my partner (DL Gold) & my mom (DL Silver)…

  3. I can understand why people think there will be more elites, due to anecdotal evidence but I’m really not so sure about this. For every person who’s gaining elite status they never would’ve had without the DEQM promotions, I’m sure there’s at least one person whose flying has been severely curtailed. This could mean anything from not flying for business, non flying internationally or even people being more price conscious and going outside of their preferred programs.

    I feel that sometimes those of us who actively follow this stuff end up believing in the fallacy that we’re the norm and that everyone is signing up for DEQM promotions and sticking to an airline.

  4. It is worthwhile to remember that we dedicated frequent flyers and Flyertalk members are quite in the minority compared to the vast majority of flyers. Many people did not even know about the Double EQM offers. With the poor state of the economy likely to continue, travel will remain reduced, and the airlines will need to continue to keep their elite customers and attract as much business as possible.

  5. why would they wait till march? the economy is bad and they know it, Feb is usually the lowest time travel month of the year, and with a possible recovery on the horizon, the last thing the airline want to do is ground more planes, and a DEQM would be a good way to keep the load capacity up during the few months before summer.

  6. You’ve mentioned mostly UA. Do you think DL will have its DEQM bonus in the first half of 2010, like it did in 2009, or wait until later in the year.
    More importanly, when do you think DEQM announcement will be made? I’ve been holding off on making some reservations for March-May anticipating a DEQM so I can plan accordingly. I’m only booking the necessary travel right now, hoping that I can dovetail a few MRs in and around the other upcoming travel requirements.

  7. Great point: While the hard number of elites remains equal, the proportion of elites to seats has risen, which makes battlefield upgrades a nightmare.

    I’d think that maybe they’d consider new–or old–tactics instead of DEQMs though. In the 1990’s they had a “fly 50% of Elite Qualification in the First Quarter and get status” promo… So if you flew 25k EQMs on UA by March 31, you got Premier Exec. That might be interesting…

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